By Soni Daniel, Regional Editor, North
In a bid to retool its forces, the Federal Government may have ordered the return of all defence contracts to the Ministry of Defence.
The decision to return the purchase of equipment to the ministry followed complaints by security experts that the armed forces needed to be retooled in order to meet the challenges posed by terrorists in the country.
Competent source said that the return of the contracts to the defence ministry was one of the issues the current Defence Minister, Mohammed Gusau, had indicated that as a pre-condition to accepting the appointment when the Presidency tipped him for the job.
Gusau is said to have expressed worry about the state of equipment in the nation’s armed forces shortly after taking over the reins of power early this year.
He had also requested the President to order the heads of the army, air force and the navy to be reporting to him as another condition for him to take the job, a request, which the service chiefs, reportedly frowned at.
Although the Presidency pleaded with Gusau not to resign his appointment over the alleged row with service chiefs, the move to return all contract awards to the defence ministry may be seen as a tacit support for the reforms being spearheaded by the minister, who is a retired army general.
It was learnt that in recent security meetings with President Goodluck Jonathan in the wake of unrelenting Boko Haram attacks in parts of the north and Abuja, had expressed disappointment at the rate and ease with which the insurgents attack military locations and public institutions and escape even in the presence of military personnel.
Some of the security experts are reported to have told the President that the government needed to take urgent steps to overhaul the personnel and properly equip the armed forces to be able to tackle the insurgents.
With the latest development, the current practice of allowing each unit of the armed forces to source for its hardware directly from vendors of their choice might be discontinued.
Vanguard learnt from competent sources last night that although the Service Chiefs were in support of direct acquisition of their equipment, top officials of the Defence Ministry were opposed to the practice, which they claim had robbed the government of value for money.
A top defence source said that the ministry was unhappy that its core functions of budgeting and supervising the purchase of equipment for the armed forces through a bidding process had been hijacked for many years by the respective units of the armed forces.